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Sewing Stretchy Fabric

Category Sewing
A sewing machine at work joining fabric.
Sewing stretchy fabric can be tricky. You want to follow a few simple steps to ensure that the finished seams lie nice and flat and at the same time do not break when the garment is worn or the item used. This is a guide about sewing stretchy fabric.
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Solutions

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By 0 found this helpful
June 13, 2007

Tips from the ThriftyFun community for sewing stretchy fabric without warping.

Use Tissue Paper

Have you tried sewing with tissue paper? Sandwich the fabric inside the paper, the feed dogs will not stretch the paper. Once the seam is sewed, you just have to rip the paper off. You only need a narrow strip, maybe 2 inches wide.
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By Lois

Stretch The Fabric While Sewing

Be careful. If you don't stretch the fabric a bit while sewing, you will find that the stitches break when the fabric stretches while being worn.

By Sue

Adjust Pressure

You should be able to adjust the presser foot pressure. Check your machine manual. For lightweight fabric - more pressure and for heavy fabric - less pressure. Play with different settings to see what works best. A teflon coated presser foot will also help some fabrics glide through easier. Also try lightly steaming and pressing the seam after sewing to shrink the stretching back to normal. Sometimes this helps with certain fabrics.

By Sew Sew Mitch

Use Ball Point Needles

Make sure you are using a ball point needle and loosen the tension of your pressure foot. Tissue paper also helps.

Helpful Tip: Make sure the package says ball point needles. I once asked the sales person to give me needles for stretch fabric. She gave me universal needles. My daughter made it for the last dance to her Jr. prom because I had so many problems trying to sew with the universal needles. After the event, I purchased ball point needles and they glided through the material like silk. That was an experience that both my daughter and I will never forget.

By Joanne

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

March 10, 20120 found this helpful

I am sewing wind pants with zippers down each leg. The material I have is only stretchy in one direction. Which way should I layout the pattern pieces? Should I have the stretch be vertical or horizontal?

By Sally D

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March 10, 20120 found this helpful

Horizontal. The fabric will stretch horizontal more to compensate for minor vertical changes. Sew one leg and test it first. Leave enough material available on the inseam so that you can undo and resew without wasting a whole piece. And if its perfect. Pull inside out and cut the excess. Test a leg after horizontal stretch.

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March 12, 20120 found this helpful

If you're using a pattern and this is the fabric the pattern called for, the lay-out diagram on the pattern will show you the way the pattern should be laid out on the fabric.

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March 12, 20121 found this helpful

Always when sewing pants or any clothing from a stretch fabric... the stretch should always: "wrap around you". Otherwise you will end up with legs stretching long, messy and differently, bags and wrinkles of all strange sorts at the crotch and backside.

None of us needs that sort of attention, nor the waste of your fabric and efforts.

Best of sewing.

Reply Was this helpful? 1
August 27, 20160 found this helpful

Fabric is almost always cut "with the grain" meaning with the pattern's grain line arrow lengthwise which I'll call "vertical". [fabric is purchased by LENGTH measurement] If you cut across the grain so that your pattern's vertical runs from selvage edge to selvage edge the garment will not have the strength it would if it was cut with the long grain. The cross fibers are not as strong. Generally, a woven stretch fabric garment stretches across and is cut on the grain along the fabric's length the same as it would be if it was non-stretch fabric. This means the garment will stretch around. On a bottom it will stretch across your rear when you sit and on a top it will stretch across your back when you move your arms forward.

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I've only once had a woven stretch item that stretched vertically. It was a pair of men's corduroy slacks. They were nice because they were comfortable for sitting especially over the knees. It was long ago and before the 'spandex era'. I have not seen any stretch fabric woven in that manner since and the only place was in men's slacks. I do not recall ever seeing a garment that only stretched up and down. Women's jeans that say four way stretch feel like 4 way but I think they just added a lot more spandex that makes them stretch more diagonally, but not really vertically.

In knits, a majority of them only truly stretch across grain but as knits they usually have more diagonal stretch. There are also two-way stretch knits. They might also be referred to as four way stretch because when they stretch both lengthwise and crosswise it gives them increased diagonal stretch, hence '4-way'. They are the best type of fabrics for things like leggings and winter underwear - especially for skiing and other physical activities.

Check for vertical stretch by pulling straight along the grain of the fabric. Follow pattern's recommended stretch guide which is usually shown on the envelope. Always pre-wash fabric before cutting. Fabrics that shrink a lot, like denim, should be washed and dried at least 5 times. Happy stitching!

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By 0 found this helpful
June 3, 2017

I'm having a problems with my antique Singer sewing machine. It won't stitch two pieces of stretch material together anymore. I've been working with this same material, and it will sew through a single piece, but not stitch them together. I've tried everything, re-threading, checking the bobbin and its casing, and changing the needle. The stitches are very far and few in-between, but it's working fine with everything else! Please help.
-frustrated cosplayer

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June 3, 20170 found this helpful

Make sure you are using a ball-point needle. These needles are made for stretch. You can also put a length of tissue paper on the bottom to stabilize. Rip the paper off after seeing.

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June 3, 20170 found this helpful

Check out this instructional video on how to sew with stretch fabrics:

https://www.you  ch?v=UvudD3Rqqy4

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June 4, 20170 found this helpful

There are different needless for sewing stretch fabric & knits. If it is a knit then use a ball point needle. If you are sewing a polyester stretch then try a needle that is made for that kind instead of a regular needle. These special needless can be used in most machines. They can be found in most any stores that sells fabric & notions. Sometimes the needle can make all the difference.

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August 23, 20130 found this helpful

Whilst sewing stretchy tee shirt type material the stitching puckered up and went tight. The cotton I used was polyester. Should I have used Trylco cotton?

By Marian L

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August 25, 20130 found this helpful

The usual reasons for puckers whilst sewing knit fabrics like jersey are: cutting the pattern and fabric against the suggested lay-out, using the wrong type-size needle and/or thread, and the wrong upper tension setting.

First thing when planning to sew a garment from knit fabric is to read and re-read the pattern instructions several times mentally constructing the garment first before ever touching pattern to fabric to cut. If you cut knit fabrics the wrong direction your stitching will cause all sorts of problems, from puckered seams to incorrect 'hang' of the garment on your body.

Check your sewing machine user guide for the table that tells you the correct size needle and recommended thread - be certain you are using a new ball point sewing machine needle too. Using the wrong type and size needle will always cause puckers in any type fabric, btw. Never try to use a needle for woven fabrics to sew jersey or any other knit fabric, either - you are asking for puckers, tears, ladders, and seams that rip whilst being worn.

Check to be sure that you are using a thread recommended for use on the weight, too. Generally you want to use polyester thread on jersey fabrics because it stretches during the seaming process. Even if your knit fabric is 100% cotton, it's still best to use polyester thread for the 'give' factor.

Always - always - always run a test on a fair sized piece of the same fabric you are trying to sew into a garment (use the scraps that are left from cutting out the fabric for your test strips). By stitching test seams you can see where you need to make adjustments to needle, thread, and tension settings.

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August 26, 20130 found this helpful

There are several causes for what you are describing. One is that you may have the tension setting set too high or too low for the fabric. Or you could be using the wrong stitch setting.

Another might be the type of thread you are using - polyester thread is best when stitching stretch material because it stretches with the machine stitch and tension setting much better than cotton thread does.

You could be using the wrong type and size needle - always use a ball point or 'jersey' needle of the correct size for the thickness of fabric you are sewing.

Check your user guide manual for the correct thread-needle-tension-stitch settings for your machine, and always make up a test strip with a doubled over scrap piece of your fabric to check settings before stitching into the actual garment pieces. In this way you will see beforehand what settings work and which do not. It's worth it to make notes, too.

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October 8, 20130 found this helpful

I'm wanting to make onesie dresses. How can I attach the cotton material to the onesie and still keep the stretch. Should I use elastic thread in my bobbin and still pull the onesie that stretches while sewing the cotton fabric to it?

By Aleah

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November 6, 20130 found this helpful

http://prudentb  st-dress-ever-2/

Try this, its a really good tutorial.

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December 31, 20130 found this helpful

I have tried to make a cross-over top with a beautiful silky stretch fabric, but I have not been able to sew the neck line without it puckering and the stitches wandering all over the place. It does not look nice enough for me to wear it. Other sources tell me I need an industrial sewing machine. Any hints?

By Maria F.T. from Grand Forks, B.C. Canada

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